Czech schools hire unqualified teachers

At school

Czech primary and secondary schools are having to hire more and more unqualified teachers in order to provide all the compulsory classes on the curriculum. This is nothing new in the Czech Republic; schools have been chronically understaffed for years. Pavla Horakova has more.

At school
The demand is especially high for language teachers and teachers of computer classes, who can easily find a better paid job elsewhere. Milan Macek is the headmaster of a primary school in Prague 2.

"Language and computer teachers are difficult to find. There are not enough graduates in these areas and the demands of the schools are quite high. Czech universities have not yet produced enough qualified graduates in these fields to cover the demand of the whole education system."

There is a shortage of teachers in general, and schools often have to employ old-age pensioners to fill the vacancies. Young graduates - facing the prospect of a low starting salary and negligible pay rises in the future - leave for the private sector, where they're paid much more. Milan Macek again.

"The starting monthly salary of a young teacher is terrible. The average is around 9,000 crowns and according to statistics, the average salary in Prague is around 18,000. With that money young teachers can just about make ends meet. We have to employ pensioners - or rather people who have come out of retirement, and we also have many teachers of retirement age in our school."

The percentage of teachers without a university degree is growing rapidly. According to the Education Information Institute 15 percent of primary school teachers don't have the necessary qualifications. What is the situation in Milan Macek's school?

"It means that some teachers have a university degree but in a different field than what they are teaching. Sometimes we can't find a teacher with a degree - and I'm not talking about a degree in teaching, I mean any kind of degree - so in exception al cases we have to employ teachers with secondary education and some kind of extension course. This year our English teacher left in the middle of the term and we had to take on a teacher who has a secondary education and a follow-up language course, but he has no proper qualification."

The government's promise that teachers' wages would exceed the average salary by 30 percent in 2002 has not materialised. Teachers can, at least, expect an 11 percent rise in March, but their trade unions say it is not enough to improve the situation.